A Word on Terrorism

I care about language. I don’t like to see it abused or misused. I don’t like what has happened to the word “awesome,” for instance. The word has lost its meaning. You have to go hunting for some other word to take its place. Recently I was trying to compose something that touched upon the shootings in Paris and I found myself deliberately avoiding the words “terrorism” and “terrorist.” They’ve become propaganda terms, used in the same way that “communism” and “communist” were once used: They’re intended to stop all debate. Which of us isn’t against terrorism? A common line of reasoning is “I don’t care why they’re doing it. There’s never any justification for terrorism.” If you say, “No, there’s never any justification, but there are reasons it happens,” the subtlety goes right past them. You’re dead in the water. You’ve become a “terrorist sympathizer.” It should be pointed out that, contrary to the way the media uses the word, terrorism is not a philosophy. It’s a tactic. And it’s a tactic that the United States Government is not above using. The military described the opening days of its assault on Bagdad as employing a strategy known as “Shock and Awe,” which did kill many civilians along with military targets. What is Shock and Awe if not the very definition of terror? And we decapitate our enemies, too, but from a distance with remote-controlled missiles. How is that any less barbaric? So I avoid using the words “terrorism” and “terrorist.” You end up playing some ideologue’s game when you do.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’m free to say what I wanted to say in my original post. Next time.

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10 Responses to “A Word on Terrorism”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Hi Mark, an insightful post. I agree with what you’re saying here.

  2. markbittner Says:

    Good to hear from you. It’s been awhile.

  3. Tim Mueller Says:

    Agreed. Once the focus on terrorism as a tactic is restored, the camera must, by definition, swing back in our direction, exposing our own barbarity. The shock and disgust we Americans felt over the My Lai massacre and the treatment of our POWs in the Hanoi Hilton is now gathering dust, neglected and forgotten in a locked closet. The methods of torture used by the North Vietnamese captors was PROOF that they were godless, satanic people. Indeed, where is that outrage now?

    Mark, you know that I am fascinated by language as well.
    Language is amazingly precise. It is also disturbingly ambiguous. The irony is that these two opposites exists at the same time, all the time. The power of words to liberate is always tempered with its concomitant ability to oppress. To ignore this constant tension is to view language solely as a means to control others. Another aspect of the irony of language is that when we focus solely on its ability to liberate, we can unwittingly become agents of oppression. The beginning and end of language has to be humility, even when we are at our most bombastic.

    I like what Emily Dickinson said:

    A WORD is dead
    When it is said,
    Some say.
    I say it just
    Begins to live 5
    That day.

    Frost echoed that same sentiment about the nature of duality in “The Road Not Taken”.
    Where are the poets now?

  4. Brad Biggs Says:

    Mark, I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy for the barbarians we’re dealing with. Do you wish to live under the mandates of Sharia law? That is their goal, whether you recognize it or not…. http://video.foxnews.com/v/4030583977001/warning-extremely-graphic-video-isis-burns-hostage-alive/?#sp=show-clips

    • markbittner Says:

      It’s not either/or. And I’m not talking about sympathy. I’m talking about reality. We don’t look at reality in this country. We have a sort of fantastical ideological outlook that seldom corresponds to what is actually happening. More on this when I get the time.

  5. Linda ladeewolf Says:

    Nature abhors a vacuum. When you remove one antagonist, another appears. When Bush started the war in I Iraq, a country that really had no plan to drop any bombs on us. He destroyed one supposed enemy, leaving a vacuum to be filled by a real one. The real one is much worse than the one Bush lied about. One might say he created this monster.

    I had some neighbors, They were of Hispanic extraction, They killed every snake that they saw, even the harmless ones. They didn’t know the difference in a venomous one or a non-venomous. I had a black snake living under my house, they killed it, now I have a rodent problem. I’ve been trying to catch another black snake to put under the house with no luck, I’d rather have a harmless black snake than chipmunks or rats or one of those copperheads moving in.

    No matter what we do, an antagonist is out there waiting to be aroused. Once we eliminate IS. I will not call them Isis. I prefer Daiesh. Not sure about the spelling for that. Another antagonist will appear. Until all mankind realizes how unimportant religious beliefs are, this will continue. Until those same men realize that women have the same rights they do, this includes sexual as well as financial it will continue. Religion is not necessary, I am not an Atheist, but I don’t believe in this one holy God crap. There has to be many or none.

    Our government is only too happy to invoke patriotism to start another war. We send our young men and women off to war, the only ones who benefit, are the many banks, holding money for both sides and charging interest on it, the others are the weapons manufacturers, others are the high technology purveyors and members of our governments that hold stock in all these institutions. The wars are dragged out until hundreds of thousands of young men and women on all sides are dead. Survivors of these wars are ignored when the government is done with them. Once expended like a used round, they are discarded. Poor medical care is provided, no emotional support for those that can’t handle the barbarism they have witnessed. They come home mentally ill, feeling the enemy is still around them. If they were unstable when they went to war, they are certainly worse off when they come home.

    I have no answers, it won’t end until we discard religion and greed and replace them with kindness and honor and responsibility for our own actions and sins. Sorry to be so long winded. I’ve been suppressing my opinions lately.

    • markbittner Says:

      I’m going to write more on the same thing you’re talking about somewhat soon. My book, which is coming along well right now, is keeping me busy. But I essentially agree with what you’re saying.

    • Lynn Duvall Says:

      Linda ladeewolf

      You have defined the problem(s) brilliantly. I’m saving your reply to read, no doubt many times. Btw, wish I could mail you a black snake and meanwhile you could find a way to put bells on your neighbors so your snake could hear them coming. I worked with a wildlife rehab group for years and spent much of my energy on phone calls — rather than working with the animals — trying to explain survival of the fittest, how nature solves the problem of scarcity, and that the animals were here first and we do NOT have “dominion” over them. I live in Baptist Alabama, sadly and furiously.)

  6. Lynn Duvall Says:

    Just looking thru the “War” file in my Writing folder and remembered what I wrote when you posted this blog entry.

    Mark — what are your thoughts about words like “militants” and “jihadists”? Do you have another description you feel is more accurate? How about barbaric outlaws like ISIS/ISIL and their actions, such as forcing a prisoner into a cage then burning him alive? Just curious since I was a writer and editor for 25 years (and Tim Mueller, I’ve published 4 articles about various aspects of the Vietnam War over the past few years and it’s frequently on my FB page.) I remember watching the documentary “Manhunt,” about the CIA’s 20-year involvement with tracking A-Q and Bin Laden, and hearing the question “How do we destroy an ideology?” It seemed to me then — and still does — to describe the exact nature of the problems the US tried/tries to tackle in the Middle East … and why they will continue to fail. (“They” meaning the warmakers. I haven’t been able to talk my husband into moving to Canada … yet.)

    • markbittner Says:

      I’ve started a post on this stuff. It looks like it’s going to take some time, though. Maybe it will have several parts.

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